What do citation counts measure? A review of studies on citing behavior

What do citation counts measure? A review of studies on citing behavior Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to present a narrative review of studies on the citing behavior of scientists, covering mainly research published in the last 15 years. Based on the results of these studies, the paper seeks to answer the question of the extent to which scientists are motivated to cite a publication not only to acknowledge intellectual and cognitive influences of scientific peers, but also for other, possibly non‐scientific, reasons. Design/methodology/approach – The review covers research published from the early 1960s up to mid‐2005 (approximately 30 studies on citing behavior‐reporting results in about 40 publications). Findings – The general tendency of the results of the empirical studies makes it clear that citing behavior is not motivated solely by the wish to acknowledge intellectual and cognitive influences of colleague scientists, since the individual studies reveal also other, in part non‐scientific, factors that play a part in the decision to cite. However, the results of the studies must also be deemed scarcely reliable: the studies vary widely in design, and their results can hardly be replicated. Many of the studies have methodological weaknesses. Furthermore, there is evidence that the different motivations of citers are “not so different or ‘randomly given’ to such an extent that the phenomenon of citation would lose its role as a reliable measure of impact”. Originality/value – Given the increasing importance of evaluative bibliometrics in the world of scholarship, the question “What do citation counts measure?” is a particularly relevant and topical issue. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Documentation Emerald Publishing

What do citation counts measure? A review of studies on citing behavior

Journal of Documentation, Volume 64 (1): 36 – Jan 18, 2008

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Publisher
Emerald Publishing
Copyright
Copyright © 2008 Emerald Group Publishing Limited. All rights reserved.
ISSN
0022-0418
DOI
10.1108/00220410810844150
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to present a narrative review of studies on the citing behavior of scientists, covering mainly research published in the last 15 years. Based on the results of these studies, the paper seeks to answer the question of the extent to which scientists are motivated to cite a publication not only to acknowledge intellectual and cognitive influences of scientific peers, but also for other, possibly non‐scientific, reasons. Design/methodology/approach – The review covers research published from the early 1960s up to mid‐2005 (approximately 30 studies on citing behavior‐reporting results in about 40 publications). Findings – The general tendency of the results of the empirical studies makes it clear that citing behavior is not motivated solely by the wish to acknowledge intellectual and cognitive influences of colleague scientists, since the individual studies reveal also other, in part non‐scientific, factors that play a part in the decision to cite. However, the results of the studies must also be deemed scarcely reliable: the studies vary widely in design, and their results can hardly be replicated. Many of the studies have methodological weaknesses. Furthermore, there is evidence that the different motivations of citers are “not so different or ‘randomly given’ to such an extent that the phenomenon of citation would lose its role as a reliable measure of impact”. Originality/value – Given the increasing importance of evaluative bibliometrics in the world of scholarship, the question “What do citation counts measure?” is a particularly relevant and topical issue.

Journal

Journal of DocumentationEmerald Publishing

Published: Jan 18, 2008

Keywords: Reference services; Bibliographic systems

References

  • Peer reviews and bibliometric indicators: a comparative study at a Norwegian university
    Aksnes, D.W.; Taxt, R.E.
  • Social Stratification in Science
    Cole, J.R.; Cole, S.
  • Invisible Colleges
    Crane, D.
  • Research on research evaluations
    Hemlin, S.
  • The bibliometric properties of article readership information
    Kurtz, M.J.; Eichhorn, G.; Accomazzi, A.; Grant, C.; Demleitner, M.; Murray, S.S.; Martimbeau, N.; Elwell, B.
  • Problems of citation analysis
    MacRoberts, M.H.; MacRoberts, B.R.
  • Communicating Research
    Meadows, A.J.

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